Archive for Approximation

Independent Set, Induced Matching, and Pricing: Connections and Tight (Subexponential Time) Approximation Hardnesses

We present a series of almost settled inapproximability results for three fundamental problems. The first in our series is the {\em subexponential-time} inapproximability of the {\em maximum independent set} problem, a question studied in the area of {\em parameterized complexity}. The second is the hardness of approximating the {\em maximum induced matching} on bounded-degree bipartite graphs. The last in our series is the tight hardness of approximating the {\em k-hypergraph pricing} problem, a fundamental problem arising from the area of {\em algorithmic game theory}. In particular, assuming the Exponential Time Hypothesis, our two main results are:

  • For any r larger than some constant, any r-approximation algorithm for the maximum independent set problem must run in time at least 2^{n^{1-\epsilon}/r^{1+\epsilon}}. This nearly matches the upper bound of 2^{n/r} [Cygan et al:  Manuscript 2008]. It also improves some hardness results in the domain of parameterized complexity (e.g. [Escoffier et al: Manuscript 2012] and [Chitnis et al: Manuscript 2013]).
  • For any k larger than some constant, there is no polynomial time \min \{k^{1-\epsilon}, n^{1/2-\epsilon}\}-approximation algorithm for the k-hypergraph pricing problem , where n is the number of vertices in an input graph. This almost matches the upper bound of  \min \{O(k), \tilde O(\sqrt{n})\}  (by Balcan and Blum in [Balcan and Blum: Theory of Computing 2007] and an algorithm in this paper).

We note an interesting fact that, in contrast to n^{1/2-\epsilon} hardness, the k-hypergraph pricing problem admits n^{\delta} approximation for any \delta >0 in quasi-polynomial time. This puts pricing problem in a rare approximability class in which approximability thresholds can be improved significantly by allowing algorithms to run in quasi-polynomial time.
The proofs of our hardness results rely on several unexpectedly tight connections between the three problems. First, we establish a connection between the first and second problems by proving a new graph-theoretic property related to an {\em induced matching number} of dispersers. Then, we show that the n^{1/2-\epsilon} hardness of the last problem follows from nearly tight {\em subexponential time} inapproximability of the first problem, illustrating a rare application of the second type of inapproximability result to the first one. Finally, to prove the subexponential-time inapproximability of the first problem, we construct a new PCP with several properties; it is sparse and has nearly-linear size, large degree, and small free-bit complexity. Our PCP requires no ground-breaking ideas but rather a very careful assembly of the existing ingredients in the PCP literature.

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Multi-Attribute Profit-Maximizing Pricing

Author: Parinya Chalermsook, Khaled Elbassioni, Danupon Nanongkai, He Sun

Download: arXiv (Extended Abstract)pdf (full version)

Conference: Submitted

Journal: 

Abstract:

In the unlimited-supply profit-maximizing pricing problem, we are given the consumers’ consideration sets and know their purchase strategy (e.g. buy the cheapest items). The goal is to price the items to maximize the revenue. Previous studies suggest that this problem is too general to obtain even a sublinear approximation ratio (in terms of the number of items) even when the consumers are restricted to have very simple purchase strategies.
In this paper we initiate the study of the multi-attribute pricing problem as a direction to break this barrier. Specifically, we consider the case where each item has a constant number of attributes, and each consumer would like to buy the items that satisfy her criteria in all attributes. This notion intuitively captures typical real-world settings and has been widely-studied in marketing research, healthcare economics, etc. It also helps categorizing previously studied cases, such as highway pricing problem and graph vertex pricing problem on planar and bipartite graphs, from the general case.

We show that this notion of attributes leads to improved approximation ratios on a large class of problems. This is obtained by utilizing the fact that the consideration sets have low VC-dimension and applying Dilworth’s theorem on a certain partial order defined on the set of items. As a consequence, we present sublinear-approximation algorithms, thus breaking the previous barrier, for two well-known variants of the problem: unit-demand uniform-budget min-buying and single-minded pricing problems. Moreover, we generalize these techniques to the unit-demand utility-maximizing pricing problem and (non-uniform) unit-demand min-buying pricing problem when valuations or budgets depend on attributes, as well as the pricing problem with symmetric valuations and subadditive revenues. These results suggest that considering attributes is a promising research direction in obtaining improved approximation algorithms for such pricing problems.

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Distributed Verification and Hardness of Distributed Approximation

Author: Atish Das Sarma, Stephan Holzer, Liah Kor, Amos Korman, Danupon Nanongkai, Gopal Pandurangan, David Peleg, Roger Wattenhofer

Download: arXiv

Conference: STOC 2011

Journal:

Abstract:

We study the verification problem in distributed networks, stated as follows. Let H be a subgraph of a network G where each vertex of G knows which edges incident on it are in H. We would like to verify whether H has some properties, e.g., if it is a tree or if it is connected. We would like to perform this verification in a decentralized fashion via a distributed algorithm. The time complexity of verification is measured as the number of rounds of distributed communication.
In this paper we initiate a systematic study of distributed verification, and give almost tight lower bounds on the running time of distributed verification algorithms for many fundamental problems such as connectivity, spanning connected subgraph, and s-t cut verification. We then show applications of these results in deriving strong unconditional time lower bounds on the hardness of distributed approximation for many classical optimization problems including minimum spanning tree, shortest paths, and minimum cut. Many of these results are the first non-trivial lower bounds for both exact and approximate distributed computation and they resolve previous open questions. Moreover, our unconditional lower bound of approximating minimum spanning tree (MST) subsumes and improves upon the previous hardness of approximation bound of Elkin [STOC 2004] as well as the lower bound for (exact) MST computation of Peleg and Rubinovich [FOCS 1999]. Our result implies that there can be no distributed approximation algorithm for MST that is significantly faster than the current exact algorithm, for any approximation factor.
Our lower bound proofs show an interesting connection between communication complexity and distributed computing which turns out to be useful in establishing the time complexity of exact and approximate distributed computation of many problems.

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Stackelberg Pricing is Hard to Approximate within 2−ε

Author Parinya Chalermsook, Bundit Lekhanukit, Danupon Nanongkai

Download: pdfarXiv

Conference:

Abstract:

Stackelberg Pricing Games is a two-level combinatorial pricing problem studied in the Economics, Operation Research, and Computer Science communities. In this paper, we consider the decade-old shortest path version of this problem which is the first and most studied problem in this family. The game is played on a graph (representing a network) consisting of fixed cost edges and pricable or variable cost edges. The fixed cost edges already have some fixed price (representing the competitor’s prices). Our task is to choose prices for the variable cost edges. After that, a client will buy the cheapest path from a node s to a node t, using any combination of fixed cost and variable cost edges. The goal is to maximize the revenue on variable cost edges.

In this paper, we show that the problem is hard to approximate within 2-\epsilon, improving the previous APX-hardness result by Joret [to appear in Networks]. Our technique combines the existing ideas with a new insight into the price structure and its relation to the hardness of the instances.

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[v1] Oct 2, 2009 (Manuscript posted on arXiv)

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